Common Pain Medication Could Slow Cancer Growth

Animal models treated with celecoxib (Celebrex) showed a decreased rate of cancer growth.

Researchers in a recent study discovered that a common pain and anti-inflammatory medication slows the rate of cancer development in animal models.

In the study published in Cancer Research, researchers analyzed the effects of celecoxib (Celebrex) since it targets the enzyme, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). COX-2 is linked to pain and inflammation.

COX-2 is also crucial for creating prostaglandins that act like hormones and increase tumor growth. This enzyme is typically expressed low in healthy tissue, but high in certain cancerous tissues.

"We were actually interested in determining what a particular signaling pathway does in cancer," said lead researcher Joseph Kissil, PhD. "In the process, we found that it activates genes that promote survival of tumor cells and that they do so by turning on enzymes involved in inflammation, including COX2, which anti-inflammatory drugs like Celebrex inhibit."

In animal models, researchers tracked the effect of the drug on the growth of cancer cells from a neurofibromatosis type II (NF2) tumor, which is a rare inherited cancer in humans caused by mutations in the anti-tumor gene NF2.

These mutations can lead to benign tumors of the auditory nerve, according to the study.

Researchers gave animal models a daily dose of the drug and analyzed tumor growth through imaging. They discovered that animal models treated with celecoxib showed a slowed rate of tumor growth compared with the control group.

Researchers also discovered that a signaling cascade, the Hippo-YAP pathway, is involved in this. The YAP protein is needed for proliferation and survival of NF2 cells and tumor formation, according to the study.

"Our study shows that COX2 inhibitors do have an effect on the tumor cells," concluded study first author William Guerrant, PhD. "They also have an impact on inflammatory responses that play a role in tumor growth. It's possible that in other cancers these effects might actually be stronger because of the drug's impact on inflammation."